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Showtime in La Rochelle

No one loves sailing the way the French love sailing. Theirs is an idiosyncratic maritime culture that’s bred some of the best sailors on the planet and some of the coolest boats too.

No one loves sailing the way the French love sailing. Theirs is an idiosyncratic maritime culture that’s bred some of the best sailors on the planet and some of the coolest boats too. Each September, the in-water boat show in La Rochelle, the town with the most marina berths of any place in Europe, draws hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of sailors. It’s a great place to check out not only the latest offerings from the big builders, but boats built by yards you may never have heard of…

Showtime! They cram them in tight here.

It was the first appearance for Jeanneau’s new Sun Fast 36, complete with jazzy graphics, twin rudders, and hard chines. That bow prod looks all business.

The Sun Fast 36’s cockpit is laid out for serious racing, with the accent on shorthanded sailing.

Here’s Dufour’s new 500, a well-thought-out performance cruiser with a retracting sprit and host of innovative features—including an optional barbecue concealed under the helm seat.

You could call the JPK line a French equivalent to J/Boats—except Js are also built in France. These fast racer-cruisers are optimized for shorthanded sailing, at which the French excel. The 10/10 here is the latest model; the plaque trumpets its racing successes.

I really liked the Pogo 12.50, a fast cruiser/racer that’s specced out for serious offshore sailing.

Here’s the Pogo 12.5 cockpit—check out that beamy rear end. Some surfing potential here…

Would you believe this is a plywood boat? Perhaps the long hard chine is giveaway. The RM range is strongly built of marine plywood sheathed in epoxy resin and fiberglass. Oh, and it has twin keels upon which it can dry out happily.

Room for a party in the RM 1360’s comfortable-looking cockpit; check out the Dyneema backstay.

Insert dinghy here: the beachable Malango 888 doesn’t need davits. It has twin rudders and a swing keel, and wind-down beaching legs that keep the rudders off the bottom when the tide goes out.

Here’s the little Malango 8.88 and its bigger sister, the 999, seen from a better angle. Pretty boats; I even like the graphics.

Don’t know if you can read the placard here, but the Revolution 22 is as interesting as it is ugly. It’s adapted from the scow-bowed Mini 6.5 that won a transatlantic race a couple of years back, and is built of aluminum as an indestructible pocket cruiser. Thanks to that full bow, there’s a surprising amount of room down below.

The photo doesn’t do it justice, but this was one of the prettiest boats at the show. The Optio is a new daysailer from Wauquiez, a yard known for its high-quality offshore cruisers. Below, there’s an enclosed head, a fridge, small galley, and a comfortable bunk for two. What more could you want?

Not quite trimaran, not quite monohull, the Astus Bay Dream is as cute as a button either way. Looks like a fun, stable little cruiser.

Much as I like Corsair and Dragonfly trimarans, it was great to see some other variations on the variable-beam theme. Daggerboards in the amas free up accommodation space in the Bandit 870’s center hull.

Don’t let the name or the gray paint mislead you—this lightweight flyer is no tank. The MC34 Patton has already cleaned up in some top regattas and interest was running high.

The Archambault 40, with its helms set well forward in the cockpit, looked well set-up for crewed and shorthanded racing.

Beneteau introduced its new open-plan Oceanis 38, a novel (and spacious) take on cruising design.

If you get tired of looking at new boats, there was a whole line-up of classics to admire, including Bernard Moitessier’s classic ketch Joshua.

And finally, back on shore, you could pick through heaps of diver’s helmets, binnacles, captain’s chairs, old navigation lights and other bric-a-brac for that perfect nautical accessory for your home…

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